Recovery Advocate

One Year

One Year

Today is July 9th of 2013. I celebrated my first year of clean time and sobriety. I did today what I have been doing for some time now.

I got up at 06:30 and walked 2.3 miles, made some oatmeal for breakfast, made some juice out of a selection of fruits. I went to the local 1:00pm meeting I secretary and went after to meet a new sponsee. After that I came home and took a mild nap beginning with some meditation and when I awoke, I went to the 6:00 “circle” meeting and after that, I came home and made salmon for dinner followed by a healthy dose of Juice Plus.

What is missing is the integration of an intimate walk with a “higher power”. I am unclear what prevents me from such a connection other than just plain ole doubt and lack of faith.

I prayed with my new sponsee today and asked God to please bless our relationship as I walked him through the 12 steps and asked God to teach us how to honor him through the relationship by showing us how to live well and healthy.

Today I take ½ the usual dose of blood pressure medicine I used to take and although I struggle in the mornings with anxiety, it is not necessary for me to take any drugs for it nor do I crave anything. During the day, I have minor bouts of anxiety and experience what I have come to know as “cog fog”.

COG FOG

“Brain fog is the term used to describe cognitive dysfunction which causes feelings of mental confusion and lack of mental clarity.”

“Attempting to accomplish simple tasks when coping with brain fog can be frustrating. As you wait for the recovery process to be completed, acknowledge that your limitations are temporary and try not to force yourself or struggle to do more than you are capable of.”

~ “Benzo-Wise, a Recovery Companion” by Baylissa Frederick, 2009

My recovery of late is much different in that I am not in a constant state of terror and fear as my mind and body undergo what I now know is the healing process but what felt more like “the dread before the dead”.

Today I awake with anxiety that prevents me from sleeping in past the 06:00 hour but is settled down by a brisk 2.3 mile walk with my dog.

During the day, I experience anxiety from time to time and some minor bouts of nausea and heart palpitations.

During the mid-afternoon, I get fatigue, especially in the summer heat and have learned to minimize exertion and meditate for 10-30 minutes, usually leading to a short rejuvenate nap.

Another walk in the early evening helps eliminate evening anxiety.

I go to fewer meetings than in early recovery but try to go to 3-5 meetings a week, sharing AA, NA and CR meetings.

Once a week, I go to biofeedback and once every two weeks or there about, I go to restorative yoga.

Every day, I juice fruits and vegetable, eat oatmeal, yogurt, salmon or tuna, and a variety of other healthy foods. I try to drink plenty of water but should probably drink more than I do.

I avoid caffeine, soft drinks, red meat, and processed foods for the most part but am more relaxed about this than early in my recovery.

The First Year – In Review

The first year of recovery was about surrendering, acceptance, humility and determination. It took a few years to come to a place of admitting I was addicted to comfort first and then drugs to help me deal with uncomfortable situations.

I used benzodiazepines because I was convinced prior to surrendering, that I suffered from a physical malady misunderstood and misdiagnosed by family, friends and the medical community. I thought the physical malady was my body’s response to previous traumas. My body became anxious, panicky, nauseated and subdued. The benzodiazepines at first, dampened the physical symptoms and minimized the psychological impact, what I refer now to as “psychobabble”.

My denial of addiction was so strong that two psychiatric hospital commitments and two treatment center visits could not convince me that the things my body was going through were not so much the impact of childhood trauma but were the effects of inter-dose and acute withdrawal from long term use of benzodiazepines.

In June of 2012, I asked my wife to recommit me to a treatment center and although I had not yet surrendered, I knew I had to do something because the physical and psychological symptoms were so out of control, no amount of benzodiazepines seemed to help.

I understood that I needed to get off these medications for a couple of years and tried to wean myself off of them but could never reduce my dose below two milligrams per day and most days towards the end of my addiction required “as needed” doses to get by.

At the treatment center in June, I was still in the better part of denial, telling those who asked that I was suffering from physical issues like panic attacks and anxiety but in the same breath, I explained I needed to come off the benzodiazepines because I came to realize that they were not helping me anymore.

The treatment center started me on five milligrams of Klonopin and reduced my dose one milligram per day for five days. Within three days of not taking Klonopin, I was in inter-dose withdrawal and found it necessary to go to the emergency room in extreme anxiety and with serious psychological and physical symptoms.

The ER doctor ordered one milligram of Ativan the first visit and within several minutes, my symptoms subsided. Why I did not understand at this point the obvious nature of my addiction is beyond me, but back to the treatment center I went and within three days, I was back in ER suffering the same symptoms.

This time the treatment center insisted that I refuse all hospital attempts to inject me with benzodiazepines. I asked the ER doctor what was happening to me. I had difficulty talking, putting my words together. I was shaking out of control and was stuttering. He explained to me that I was in acute withdrawal as a result of long term exposure to benzodiazepines. He told me I had several weeks of physical symptoms to endure and months of psychological symptoms to endure as well. He recommended I take a shot of Hydroxyzine (Benadryl, Atarax, or Vistiril) and go back to treatment. I did.

For the next three days I went through the excruciating process of “kicking” as my body and mind, deprived of the drug I had been accustomed to taking for almost 15 years, retaliated.

One of the most profound things I discovered as part of recovery is that the most severe symptoms of withdrawal did not appear until about 3 months out. What disturbs me about this is that treatment centers usually release their patients from inpatient treatment between one and three months.

As it was in my case, when I needed the help the most, I did not have it and when I tried to call the treatment center, no help was available to me because as they explained it to me, I was no longer a patient of the treatment center.

I also discovered during the half way point of my first year of recovery, the supplements I was taking, hoping they would help me get through withdrawal with less symptoms proved to be inconclusive. I am sure there are benefits to some supplements but I cannot say with certainty that any one supplement brought about a better withdrawal experience. In fact, as I discovered in later months, magnesium and or niacin actually precipitated more severe heart palpitations.

I can say with some confidence that Juice Plus did in fact have positive results in my recovery as I saw in my monthly blood test results. My cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure all dropped as did my weight as I exercised and changed my diet which included a daily dose of Juice Plus.

My cholesterol was 260 pre-treatment and dropped to 180. My blood pressure which hovered around 160/110 in my addiction dropped over time to 100/70. My weight dropped from 242 to average around 195.

One significant occurrence I became aware of as the months went by in recovery is that the windows, periods of relief, became more the norm while waves, periods of symptoms, lessened in severity and occurred less frequently.

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